The following post was written by yours truly for a yoga blog at Spiral Wellness, a new yoga hot spot here in Denver. Founded by Laura Jaster, I think she’s one of the best pre/post natal yoga instructors around. Be sure to check out Spiral at http://www.spiralwellness.com and get a free week of yoga!
Yoga has a place in birth, regardless how baby comes into the world – whether it’s natural, using pain medication or via scheduled or emergency c-section. (To read my birth story, click here.) The basic fundamentals roll into any stressful, painful or scary situation (which most women feel at some point during the birth process), and help keep us in the moment as the miracle of life unfolds. Below are the 3 yogic lessons that I actively relied upon during my 8 hours of active labor…I hope they help you too!
1. Choosing to be present.
I think all pregnant women should take pre-natal yoga classes at Spiral…and they should also read a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. When feeling fear or pain, we naturally want to escape to some other time or place. But during labor, there is no escape from the sensations that take over (without medication), and this can cause great anxiety and fear. In my case I had severe back labor, and I found no position gave me relief or comfort. I found myself using breaks between surges to think about the pain of the last contraction and to fear the next one on deck. This was a total waste of energy, because I was using my rest period to get more stressed out! Yoga helped me consciously identify this early on. As hard as it was, I chose to ride the wave of a contraction as it happened, to bask in the break when I had one, and to accept the new contraction as it arrived. (And I emphasize that it’s a choice. A natural response to pain is to fight it, but through yoga we can rise above our physical circumstances.)
2. Learning to surrender.
Because there was no escape from the pain, I learned to surrender to the wisdom of my body. I found great hope and strength in my 6 year yoga practice, recalling times when my teachers have assured us we could hold a pose just 3 breaths longer – even when every muscle is shaking and you think it’s impossible! I have yoga to thank for not only appreciating my body for what it is, but knowing I can rely on it to get me through difficult situations. Laura’s pre-natal classes specifically helped me surrender to the greatness of the female body and what we are capable of.
I saved the most important yogic lesson for last. Without breath, there is no life. And since birth is the act of bringing new life into this world, there is no higher lesson. Pain can often lead to fear, which leads to tension, which leads to one holding their breath. Ironically, this leads to more pain, more fear and more tension…and complete and utter exhaustion as your body fights itself. The midwives told me the #1 reason mamas transfer from the birth center to the hospital is exhaustion, and I believe it. Birth is like an endurance race…can you imagine finishing a marathon without breathing? B.K.S. Iyengar once said, “When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.”
And what greater service can we provide as women, than to perpetuate life?